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Visiting the Queen's Buildings' Tower, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales: 1915 Gothic Revival by E.M. Bruce Vaughan

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University of Cardiff building, Newport Road This building on Newport Road is part of the University of Cardiff, it contains the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Computer Science.

University of Cardiff building, Newport Road This building on Newport Road is part of the University of Cardiff, it contains the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Computer Science.

Ornate, traditional styling in stone

This striking tower is part of the Queen's Buildings (1), at Cardiff University (Welsh:Prifysgol Caerdydd), Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd), Wales (Welsh: Cymru).

Dating from 1915 and formally opened in 1921 by the Prince of Wales (2), it was designed by E M Bruce Vaughan in Gothic Revival style. Originally planned as part of a quadrangle, this development was in the event never built. Rising to 5 storeys, the building's features include a pillared entrance, a large pointed arch, containing smaller, secondary arches, and decorated stone tracery. The overall appearance of the tower at the Newport Road elevation is rather ornate.

Formerly housing the Department of Physiology within the Welsh National School of Medicine (established in 1893)(3), the building was subsequently occupied by the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Computer Science.

Given that the original purpose of the building was to house the medical faculty, the design of the tower at its Newport Road elevation incorporates various sculptures representing the history of medicine. These include representations of Hippocrates, and of Asclepius (whose snake-entwined staff is a medical symbol). Other sculptures include representations of distinguished 19th century medical personalities Pasteur, Lister, Hunter and Jenner.

The structure is executed in Bath stone ashlar.

The building is a heritage (Listed) building in the United Kingdom. While contemporaneous with buildings at other British civic seats of learning known as Redbrick Universities (4), the use of stone at Queen's Buildings' tower by architect E M Bruce Vaughan is in some ways comparable to Bristol University's Wills Memorial Building by Sir George Oatley, which it predates by a few years.

April 14, 2020

Addendum: Not far from the Queen's Buildings' tower were situated the original buildings of what is now Cardiff University: at its foundation in 1883, the institution was called the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (Welsh: Coleg Prifysgol De Cymru a Mynwy).

Interestingly, in 1883 at the first session of the new College, 42 women were admitted. Among all the entrants, a woman achieved the highest entrance award (5).

The Royal Charter of Incorporation for the University of Wales (Wesh: Prifysgol Cymru) followed in 1893. Medical teaching at the College began in the same year, with classes initially held partly on the premises of a Unitarian Chapel; the first Dean of the School of Medicine was Professor Alfred Hughes (6).


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(1) See also: ;

(2) When the Prince of Wales opened Toronto's Union Station, he was recorded as remarking that the building resembled a cathedral; a similar remark could be made about the at least oblique resemblances suggested by this structure, or, perhaps more exactly, resemblances to the chapel of an Oxford or Cambridge college. Indeed, the architect of the Queen's Building tower, E. M. Bruce Vaughan (1856-1919) specialized in ecclesiastical designs.

(3) Now the Cardiff University School of Medicine (Welsh: Ysgol Feddygaeth Prifysgol Caerdydd). Distinguished medical personalities associated with the School have included: epidemologist Dr. Archie Cochrane (1909-1988), for whom the Cochrane Library of medical data is named; cardiologist Sir Thomas Lewis (1881-1945), who pioneered the electrocardiograph; thoracic surgeon Sir Clement Thomas Price (1893-1973) who served as surgeon to King George VI; immunologist Dr. Muzlifah Haniffa whose research has been award winning for her work in dermatology; and many others.

(4) The Redbrick Universities' typical style was popularized by architect Alfred Waterhouse.

(5) D. Emrys Evans, The University of Wales: A Historical Sketch, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1953, p. 52

(6) D. Emrys Evans, op. cit,, p. 54.

Also worth seeing

Also worth seeing

In Cardiff itself, other noted visitor attractions include: the Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff City Hall, Cardiff Castle, the statue of Aneurin Bevan in Queen Street, Llandaff Cathedral and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 222 kilometres from Cardiff . There are fast railroad links between London and Cardiff. Some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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